James DeGrush Brown and Ella Francelia Dye Brown

James DeGrush Brown
James DeGrush Brown

James DeGrush Brown (my maternal first great-grandfather) was born on February 9, 1846, in a house near the village of Le Claire, Iowa. There his father, Rev. Charles E. Brown (my maternal second great -grandfather) was the Baptist Pastor.[1]

At the time, this was a “thinly settled” area with the nearest neighbor a half mile away to the south. “North, east and west was the boundless prairie, without human habitation in sight. Wolves howled around the house and came almost to our door nearly every night. Prairie chickens were plentiful; large flocks used to gather, and the males strut about and sound their booming notes in plain sight of, and near the house, and a fat young hen for a meal was almost as handy to get as a fowl from a domestic barn yard. Indians were occasional visitors.”

As a boy, James was “dutiful” and “obedient” with “correct and studious habits, a ready learner, and a great reader of books, with a good memory.”

Later he became a school teacher in northern Iowa for a few years, but in 1867 began a 47-year railroading career. For the first 22 of these years he was an engineer for the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway. In 1889 he joined the “Burlington Road” (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad) for four years as station agent in Fairfield and then Ottumwa, Iowa. His next job, starting in 1903, was as a traveling freight agent for the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Railroad. In 1905 James was appointed general agent at St. Joseph, Missouri for the New York Central lines, which was then headed by his brother, William Carlos (W.C. or “Will”) Brown. He held this position until his retirement in 1914.

As previously mentioned, James was in the Union Army in 1862 for a few months before he was discharged due to a serious illness.

Ella Francelia Dye Brown
Ella Francelia Dye Brown

In 1874 he married Ella Francelia Dye Brown (my maternal first great-grandmother). They had four children: Vinnie Frances Brown Hommel (1875-1920); George Edwin Brown (my maternal grandfather) (1876-1931); Frances Margaret Brown (1879-1882); and Frank Logan Brown (1887-1973).

James died in Pasadena, California on February 18, 1923. Ella, on July 12, 1928, in Long Beach, California.

[1] This post is based upon Charles E. Brown, Personal Recollections 1813-1893 of Rev. Charles E. Brown with Sketches of His Wife and Children and Extracts from an Autobiography of Rev. Phillip Perry Brown 1790-1862 and The Family Record 1767-1907 (Ottumwa, IA 1907). Another source is Carol Willits Brown, William Brown–English Immigrant of Hatfield and Leicester, Massachusetts, and His Descendants c. 1669-1994 (Gateway Press; Baltimore, MD 1994).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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